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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Lotteries fill up Spokane’s first charter schools

Children’s names written on 3-by-5 cards tumbled around a spinning bingo barrel until Spokane’s premier charter school leader drew them out one at a time.

“Ready? This is a historic moment,” said Pride Prep’s director, Brenda McDonald. The first card had two names: David and Charles Thomas, brothers. The parents and children who gathered earlier this week at Spokane Community College for the student lottery erupted in applause.

Jubilations continued as McDonald called out names for the school’s 150 seats in sixth and seventh grades, and close to 50 more for a waiting list.

Not far away, Spokane International Academy’s director held a lottery, too. The names had been written on index cards and sealed in envelopes, which were drawn from a big bowl. Travis Franklin’s school had 160 slots to start the first year in kindergarten, first and sixth grades. There were 100 slots for kindergarten and first grade; 187 signed up for the lottery. All sixth-grade applicants will be enrolled.“We needed to do it publicly, and I think that’s important every year,” said Franklin, the school’s director and founder.

The schools, authorized by Spokane Public Schools, are the first charter schools to open in Eastern Washington after voters approved Initiative 1240 in 2012.

Students selected for the two charter schools represent all sections of Spokane.

Based on the outcome of the lottery, 16 percent of Spokane International Academy students are from Hillyard and northeast Spokane; 15 percent are from East Central and West Central neighborhoods; about 12 percent are from the South Hill; and 8 percent live in the Five Mile area.

The largest percentage of Pride Prep’s students are from Hillyard and northeast Spokane at 30 percent, according to data from the charter school. About 10 percent are from outside Spokane Public Schools’ boundaries.

Pride Prep is a college preparatory school for sixth through 12th grades and will include several years of a foreign language, extra math and science, and an extended school year.

Amy Waldvogel’s daughter Emilee, a Regal Elementary School student, will attend seventh grade at the school.

“It just seemed like a way better fit, and it reminded me of when I was in school with all the hands-on activities,” Amy Waldvogel said. Public schools these days do “too much testing, not enough education.”

The bonus is Emilee will have a better chance to make friends because the kids will be there together through their senior year, the teen’s mother said.

Jenny Elliot thinks her daughter, Tabitha, will benefit because “she’ll be able to excel in classes she likes, but get more help in the classes she struggles in.”

Tabitha, who attends Browne Elementary, liked the opportunity because “it’s a chance to learn a little bit differently,” she said.

Spokane International Academy is a K-8 school offering a curriculum with an international focus and Spanish lessons starting in kindergarten. The goal is for students to become proficient in the language as they prepare for a school-funded trip to a country in Latin America during the eighth grade.

Michelle Cahalan is glad her son, Dylan, made it into the new school for sixth grade. At Arlington Elementary, his grades have started to go downhill, there’s bullying and he’s having a rough time, she said.

The students at the academy will be required to participate in community activities, and that’s “important to me,” she said.

“It’s smaller, it opens him up to lot more learning and there will be a broader spectrum on science,” Cahalan said.

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